Rather than a ‘new birth of freedom’ (as was said in the Gettysburg Address), Biden has sought to consign Afghans into slavery, writes Prof. Madhav Nalapat
Compare the justification offered by President Joe Biden for his scurrying away from Afghanistan with the Gettysburg speech of Abraham Lincoln, the greatest US President ever. Sadly for the US, Lincoln chose as his Vice-President Andrew Johnson, who on Lincoln’s death in 1865 became the worst US President ever.
Had Lincoln chosen a running mate who shared rather than despised his views on race, black citizens may not have had to wait almost a hundred years after the defeat of the Confederacy before Civil Rights laws were passed by the US Congress in 1964. Andrew Johnson remained opposed to the emancipation of African-Americans, and helped ensure that the defeated Confederate (slavery favouring) states retained much of the discriminatory laws and practices that Lincoln had fought the civil war to abolish.
On 19 November 1863, when Lincoln delivered his speech at Gettysburg, it was evident that the Union would prevail over the Confederacy. He asked for more sacrifices, so that the war could be victoriously concluded. So that “the dead shall not have died in vain”. After blacks having been imprisoned in slavery for so long, Lincoln wanted to keep the promise in the 1776 Declaration of Independence that “all men are created equal”. Lincoln said that there would be “a new birth of freedom”, such that government “by, for and of the people shall not perish from this earth”. It took until 2009 before the son of a black professor and a white idealist became the 44th President of the US, with Joe Biden as his Vice-President.
It must be added that President Biden has gone much further than his former boss dared in trying to push outwards the boundaries that constrained the underprivileged and prevented them from becoming the success stories that the American Dream was meant to ensure. The social welfare schemes that Biden has presented for approval to the US Congress are far more ambitious than the cautious steps agreed to by Barack Obama, who spent federal money more on the wealthy than on the poor. President Lyndon B Johnson got much of his Great Society (the immense expansion in the social welfare net that came about during his tenure in the White House) through the US Congress before the blowback generated by the Vietnam war drained him of political capital.
Biden’s complacent advisers failed to warn him that the pell-mell rush the 46th US President ordered from Afghanistan could turn as politically toxic as Vietnam was for Lyndon Johnson. Both Trump and Biden ignored the risks of cravenly scooting from Afghanistan. It had been a saunter for Biden to get elected on November 4, 2020. Much of the year had been spent in his house in Delaware, earning him the nickname “Basement Biden”. That tag failed to persuade an overwhelming number of US voters that despite his house-bound ways, the 78-year=old Democrat was preferable to Donald Trump, who from almost the start of his presidential term spent his energies towards winning a second term.
Trump saw the path to this through “Sound and Fury” special effects perfected in “The Apprentice” television series. Given the jangled nerves caused by SARS-Cov-2 on US citizens, Trump’s 24/7 pyrotechnics were the last thing most wanted. Far better to have Ol Grandpa Joe as the occupant of the White House than Trump, he of the Access Hollywood tapes, who had been elected over Hillary Clinton in 2016.
Were President Biden to succeed in getting his Social Security legislation through the US Congress, it may mitigate the political effect of the disaster caused by his order to withdraw forthwith all US forces from Afghanistan. President Biden has lost much of his electoral appeal as a consequence of the Afghan withdrawal. And small wonder. While Lincoln spoke of the equality of man, Biden clearly did not consider Afghans to be the equal of US citizens, as witness the cavalier manner in which he ignored the interests of the people of Afghanistan, the overwhelming majority of whom dislike the Taliban.
This collective of Wahhabi extremists are those whom Trump (through the surrender at Doha) and Biden have handed over Afghanistan. This decision has the potential to once again occupy an unwelcome prominence in global geopolitics, given the Taliban’s hospitality towards extremist groups, including those with a penchant for mass terror attacks. Rather than a “new birth of freedom” (as was said in the Gettysburg Address), what Biden did was to consign Afghans to slavery, including through the forcible cohabitation of ageing extremists with very young women. Many for most of their lives have experienced at least some of the freedoms promised by those who sent troops into their country to “liberate” it.
As it turns out, not from but for the Taliban. Under Biden’s watch, what is being witnessed is “government by, for and of the Taliban”. At Gettysburg, Lincoln was emphatic that the Union soldiers who perished during the Civil War should not have “died in vain”. In other words, the way US soldiers did in Afghanistan. In place of a “new birth of freedom”, what confronts the people of Afghanistan is the rebirth of the horrors of servitude to extremists.
Had Biden seemed contrite about the consequences of his actions, voters may have forgiven him. What has been inexcusable is the manner in which the 46th President of the US has (in true Trump fashion) doubled down on false justifications for what he has ordered in Afghanistan. If not his boss, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin must be aware that the withdrawal not of troops but US logistical support kneecapped the Afghan National Army and made its collapse inevitable.
Austin was silent when Biden blamed the Afghan military for the fiasco caused by the withdrawal of all US support to the Afghan forces that had lost thousands of lives since 2001 in protecting US troops as well as their own people from the Taliban. This represents a degree of ingratitude that makes the world likely to regard the US as a power that it is unsafe to ally with. If Joe Biden is the C-in-C of the Quad, forget about China, even Cambodia would be able to overawe that force.
The months ahead will show whether post-surrender President Biden can get his domestic agenda through a US Congress in shock over his botching up the situation in Afghanistan. This is especially so through pulling the plug from the logistical support that was essential for the Afghan military to continue to subdue the Taliban, which it continued doing despite President Trump surrendering to the Taliban at Doha on 29 February 2020.
Joe Biden handed over the Afghan forces to the Taliban in the manner of a Thanksgiving turkey being presented to revellers. Biden scurried away from Afghanistan to ensure that the Democrats prevailed in the 2022 midterms and the 2024 Presidential polls. The President may instead have handed over both these contests to the Republicans, provided Trump supporters in that party manage to escape from the reality that the original architect of the defeat of the US, the betrayal of the Afghan people, was Donald J. Trump.